The kettle helmet was an early medieval helmet that was cheap and effective. In shape, it was very similar to a hat, although it varied significantly across Europe. The main characteristic of the kettle helmet was its wide brim, which protected the wearer from overhead blows or projectiles, which could be especially useful during sieges.
The spangenhelm was a helmet in the early middle ages that was later replaced by the nasal helmet. It was constructed of three to six metal plates, of bronze or steel, that riveted to metal frame. It fit closely to the head and came to a point on top. Optional components included a partial aventail of flaps of leather or metal for the ears. Face protection could be provided by a full face mask, a frame of metal around the eyes only, or a nasal piece to protect the nose.
The sallet was a light medieval helmet that evolved from the bascinet in the mid fifteenth century. It differed from the bascinet in that it had no protection for the neck or shoulders. In simple terms, it might have been an upside-down pot covering a soldier’s head, with additional armor, such as a gorget, needed to cover the exposed areas.
For sight, the sallet could have either a visor or a narrow slit for the eye. Breathing was not an issue, as there was usually a sufficient gap between the sallet and the gorget for air to come in.
The nasal helmet was a tight-fitting, conical, skull-cap like helmet that gained popularity in the late ninth century. It was easy to make and offered the basic protection necessary at the time. The source of its name was the single strip of metal that covered the nose of the wearer. It declined in popularity during the twelfth century, as knights began to look for more face protection, although some of the poorer soldiers held to its simple construction for a longer period of time.
The great helm is the classic helmet of the middle ages. Its use began in the late twelfth century, during the crusades and extended to the fourteenth century. During the latter end of its popularity it was mainly used as a jousting helm, or only temporarily in combat. Due to its large cylindrical shape and cloth padding, it was often hot, and restricted the wearer’s vision more than other helmets. During battle, the great helm could often be discarded in favor of a smaller, more maneuverable helmet usually worn underneath, either the bascinet or the cervelliere.
The close helm was a helmet that enclosed the entire head of the knight, ending at the bottom in a gorget, which was usually composed of several lames used to protect the neck. It was very similar to an armet, but opened in a different fashion. While an armet had two hinged cheek pieces, the close helm’s bevor would hinged upward like a second visor.
The front section of the gorget came up with the bevor, allowing the knight to put the helmet on with the bevor up, then close the bevor. Often, the close helm also had a rondel at the back, to protect any vulnerable strapping.
The close helm was used in tournaments, jousts, and warfare. Depending on the application, it could range anywhere from eight to twelve pounds, and had varying degrees of face protection.
The cervelliere was a very simple helmet. It was merely a tight-fitting metal skull cap that was worn with chain mail. It came into popularity in the late 3th century, and was used by the knights on the crusades. Starting in the 14th century, it became popular to wear a great helm over the cervellierre, and that tradition carried on to the cervelliere’s successor, the bascinet.
The burgonet was a late-medieval “light” helmet that succeeded the sallet. Indeed, at times it was called the “burgundian sallet,” although it did not bear all that strong of a resemblance. It came into popularity at the end of the 16th century, and was characterized by “shoulders” to protect the neck, hinged check gaurds, and an open face.
The bascinet was a close-fitting metal cap that was very popular in the 14th and 15th centuries, along with the kettle hat. It developed from the cervelliere, a simple, tight-fitting skull cap. The bascinet was retained the tightness of fit, but its sides were extended to protect the cheeks and neck.
Since it was so tight-fitting, at times the bascinet was worn underneath the great helm. In this situation, the great helm was removed after the first shock of battle, leaving only the bascinet for protection. This did not, however, put the knight at too much of a disadvantage; bascinets could be fitted with an aventail, which was a chain mail device that would connect directly to the bascinet and flow downwards, overlapping the knight’s hauberk.
Since the bascinet itself was also lighter and allowed more movement than the great helm, it increased in popularity and soon replaced the great helm for many knights. Early versions of the bascinet did not have heavy face protection, but with its growing importance came a new development: the visor.
Visors connected with a single hinged or two pivot points, and protected the front of the face while allowing sight through two slits, and breathing through a series of holes. As visors progressed, one type emerged that we know call the “pigface” visor. Its shape resembled the snout of a pig, or even a dog, as it was called the “hounskull” as well.
As the era of the bascinet came to a close, other popular helmets, such as the sallet and barbuta, took over where it left off, leaning heavily on the ideas used in the bascinet.